Skin grafting. Credit: Beliefnet

A research to recreate a fully-functioning skin in the laboratory for the purpose of transplant that could improve the lives of burn patients, is ongoing says a spokeswoman for Sydney Burns Foundation.

To date, burn patients are treated with skin grafts which are pieces of their own skin taken from parts of their body that were not burned, or small sheets of skin produced in the lab using their own skin cells.

However, the lab can only grow epidermis, the most outer layer of the skin that does not have the ability to stretch, grow hair, sweat, experience normal sensation or movements.

A collaborative work between the scientists at the Sydney Burns Foundation and the researchers at the University of Sydney and Concord Hospital hopes to find a remedy to the dilemma by creating a full-thickness, live skin that is able to be transplanted to burn patients.

The thorough testing measures are in progress so as to provide base data to be used for animal-testing in the near future, says Professor Peter Maitz from the Sydney University.

Burns injury is one of the most severe and disabling traumas a person can sustain, said Prof Maitz.

While modern burn and intensive care treatment has saved many lives, there is still widening gap between achieving survival and real quality of life after a severe burn injury.

According to Prof Maitz, burns do go through all of the skin layers, but surgeons are only able to transplant a very thin layer of the skin as a replacement.

He said, although it will close the wound, it has no elasticity; it is unable to perspire, can't modulate temperature, does not metabolize or produce anything. It basically has no functions of a normal skin.

Burn patients are often kept alive by the hospitals, but the real work that makes their lives worth living falls in the meticulous hands of their plastic surgeons.